Bink was living at home.
That November, she made an Advent calendar for all the boarders in Rose’s school: one present a day for each of twenty-five choristers in the cathedral. Each gift personally chosen for each child, depending on what Rose told us about them all.
That Christmas, we borrowed a house from friends a few miles from the city. My father, aged 98, with us too.
He had been interviewed for the Today Programme, by Mishal Hussein, for the second time – the first being for his D-day memories as a conscientious objector – as being the last person alive to have sung in the first BBC broadcast of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.
His interview was broadcast on Christmas Eve. That Christmas, nine decades later, his youngest grandchild sang the Once in Royal solo in one of the Christmas services. It was fun, turning up at the cathedral, the verger having heard him not long before on the radio, and showing him (and us) to the best stall seats he was allowed to give us.
Mishal had come to the house a few weeks earlier for a pre-recording. I’ve just read her email again. She is an exceptionally lovely person... but even so, what is it about Bink that people reach out to her?
“I really enjoyed meeting Lara, please give her my very best. How much she has been through. If she is remotely interested in broadcasting I would be happy to host her at Broadcasting House anytime she is in London and she can see the programme go out. Of course it may not be her cup of tea at all!”
How rare it is, for all of us to be together. How much I must have treasured it.
Going in for Christmas parties and drinks in the cathedral close. Shaun cooking the goose we all shared together. Having our friends in for a drinks on Christmas Eve. Going to theirs for drinks on Christmas Day.
Driving back to Bedford in time for our cousins on Boxing Day.
You’d think it must be lovely to have Bink living with us at last?
If only... if only she had been well.
If only she had been well enough not to live with us!
Soon she was too ill even for that.
Rose was due back at school on a Sunday evening in early January. Already, on the chorister discipline Bink herself would have enjoyed so much at that age – which might indeed have changed the next two decades for her – Rose, at twelve and a half, was responsible and mature. She was getting her uniform ready. It had been put in the washing machine, but the wash was a long one and she worried that she might not get it dry in time.
Skip some of the programme and put it on a rinse, I suggested. After all, it would be through the school laundry system and out again by the middle of the week.
Advice with very far-reaching – and desperately sad – consequences. And, of course, all my fault. Bink can never blame her beloved Rose.
There is nothing in the world, to Bink, as dirty as soap. Isn’t that the point of it? To bind with dirt and stick to it?
I might as well have told Rose to roll her uniform in dog poo before packing it in her trunk...